Traveling with the kids? A family-friendly vacation is the perfect way to expose your children to different cultures and environments. If you’re looking to go somewhere a little different to take your family on your next trip, we’ve got you covered. We scoured the globe to come up with our top picks for the best kid-friendly destinations. Whether you have toddlers or teens, these global hotspots will appeal to all ages.
1. Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi is known for its safaris and animal conservation efforts, so if you’ve got an animal-loving little one on your hands, this is the place for you. Get up close and personal with the elephants and rhinos at the Elephant Orphan Centre, or feed a giraffe (and touch its tongue!) at the Giraffe Centre. Once your family has had their fill of animals (is that possible?), head on over Panari Sky Centre. It’s East Africa’s first skating rink, so you’ll see plenty of kids testing out their ice legs. Plus, with museums, hiking trails, and fun activities like go-karts and paintball all within the city limits, you’ll never have to look far for something that will appeal to everyone.
2. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
With plenty of kid-friendly, all-inclusive resorts, white sand beaches with small, gentle waves, and ancient ruins that will fascinate even the most jaded teen, Playa del Carmen has something for every age.
A guided tour of Chichen Itza will expose your kids to the fascinating culture of the Mayan Empire. Be sure to also check out Xcaret Eco Park—this massive ecological park has everything from a butterfly sanctuary and regional wildlife, to jungle trails and natural lagoons.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
Family vacations don’t need to be limited to the beach. After all, Lisbon has castles— and what kid doesn’t love a good castle? Little imaginations will have a field day exploring the castles and towers dotting the city, imagining their life in medieval times and defending their land from intruders.
Ancient architecture aside, Lisbon is a small but mighty modern city, boasting a plethora of engaging museums, an aquarium, and a zoo. If you’re looking for something deliciously different to do, sign up for a pastry-making class. You’ll learn how to make traditional Portuguese sweets to take home as a souvenir (although we guarantee they’ll disappear long before the end of your trip).
4. Toronto, Canada
All big cities offer something for families, but Toronto tops our list when it comes to cool, kid-friendly activities. After all, where else can you walk on top of one of the world’s tallest towers? Admittedly, that might not be the best idea for young kids, but if you have a teen, you’ll very likely be dubbed World’s Coolest Parent if you embark on the CN Tower’s Edge Walk with them.
5. Bar Harbor, Maine (USA)
Bar Harbor is a charming coastal town that offers a lot more than originally meets the eye. The downtown streets are lined with bike rental shops and casual, family-friendly restaurants serving up local delicacies like fresh lobster and wild Maine blueberry soft serve ice cream (trust us, you want to try it.) But Bar Harbor’s best attractions lay just outside the bustling town streets in Acadia National Park. Miles of hiking trails, crystal-clear lakes perfect for a quick summer dip, and kid-friendly bike trails snake their way through the acres and acres of gorgeously untouched forest.
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out Thunder Hole. If you catch it at just the right time, the water entering the cave makes a loud clap, reminiscent of a thunderstorm.
6. Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv prides itself on its mishpacha vibe. Translating to “family,” it’s built into the very fabric of this beach-side city. Kids and families are welcome everywhere with open arms. Parks and playgrounds dot almost every street, the world-class museums offer educational activities for every age, and the outdoor cafes are the perfect place to grab a coffee while soaking up the warm sunshine.
All of the city’s beaches have lifeguards, showers, and of course, refreshment stands serving up ice cream cones in every flavor. And with delicious foods like hummus and falafel, you’ll won’t hear any complaints from the kids when it comes time for a meal. It’s the city that truly has it all for families.
7. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
This destination may be a little off the beaten trail, but it’s so worth it once you make your way here. Giant tortoises, birds with blue feet—the Galapagos Islands are like a fairy tale come true for little eyes. Outdoor activities abound, from snorkeling with the sea lions to hiking trails that lead you over lava to breathtaking views of the surrounding islands. Plus, the islands are home to the only species of penguins found north of the equator, and we’re pretty sure seeing penguins in the wild is on everyone’s bucket list, right?
8. Kyoto, Japan
Safe, clean, easy to get around, and surrounded by Buddhist temples—we can see why Kyoto is a prime destinations for families looking to travel somewhere a little different. But even if Buddhist temples don’t top your child’s must-see list, the city has plenty of other kid-friendly activities to fill your time here. Not only is the Kyoto Railway Museum one of the city’s top attractions for kids, it’s also one of the best train museums in the world. Kids and parents alike will be fascinated by the towering stalks at the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. And if you’re looking to burn off a little energy, the Kyoto Botanical Gardens offer plenty of space to run and explore, plus a great playground near the entrance.
9. Oslo, Norway
Oslo’s clean and efficient public transit and easy-to-navigate layout are nice, but it’s the city’s Scandinavian way of life that makes this destination worthwhile for families. Laid-back and low-stress, the people in this northern city appreciate the simple things in life. A trip here is guaranteed to be relaxing.
Also, Vikings. A trip to the Viking Ship Museum on Bygdøy Peninsula offers an up-close look at some real, live Viking ships and an in-depth look into their rich history. If outdoor activities are what you came here for, look no further than Oslofjord for boating, hiking, beaches, and charming seaside villages. A sightseeing cruise is the best way to take in the stunning landscapes and gorgeous architecture dotting the shores.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
With over 125 public playgrounds and art museums with displays set at kids’ height, Copenhagen goes out of its way to make itself as child- and family-friendly as possible. Of course, no visit here is complete without a trip to the 200-year-old Tivoli Gardens. Just a few minutes walk from City Hall, these gardens are where Walt Disney found his inspiration for his own amusement park. Couple that with the city’s iconic statue of the Little Mermaid, and the city is a veritable fairytale come true for little ones.